The primary focus of the paper is the impact of key South African leaders on the successful development and subsequent rollback of South Africa's nuclear weapons capability. It highlights the important milestones in the development of South Africa's nuclear weapon capability. It also relates how different groups within South Africa (scientists, politicians, military and technocrats) interacted to successfully produce South Africa's nuclear deterrent. It emphasizes the pivotal influence of the senior political leadership to pursue nuclear rollback given the disadvantages of its nuclear means to achieve vital national interests. The conclusions drawn from this effort are the South African nuclear program was an extreme response to its own "identity crisis." Nuclear weapons became a means to achieving a long-term end of a closer affiliation with the West. A South Africa yearning to be identified as a Western nation--and receive guarantees of its security--rationalized the need for a nuclear deterrent. The deterrent was intended to draw in Western support to counter a feared "total onslaught" by Communist forces in the region. Two decades later, that same South Africa relinquished its nuclear deterrent and reformed its domestic policies to secure improved economic and political integration with the West. Several recommendations are offered for critical review of the above issues to include the need for greater international dialogue and constructive engagement with threshold nations such as India and Pakistan. Nonproliferation regimes can be used to promote mutual verification, transparency, and the resolution of mutual security concerns. More than anything, policymakers must be prepared to assist threshold nuclear states in resolving their core regional security concerns if they wish to encourage states to pursue nuclear rollback.
INSS Occasional Paper 27